Saturday, December 31, 2011

Stir-Fried Sichuan Green Beans

I love all the flavors and spices of various ethnic foods and tonight I made a healthier version of Chinese take-out. This dish was really easy to make and even though it had quite a few ingredients, all were simple things that I always have on hand. This was a very flavorful dish with just a hint of heat (next time I will up the amount of red pepper flakes to bump up the heat level a little). The dish does cook up very quickly, so be sure to have all the ingredients prepped and ready to go. I served this very simply over white rice.

Stir-Fried Sichuan Green Beans
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated online subscription

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon white wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound green beans, ends trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 pound pork
3 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
3 scallions, white and light green parts sliced thin
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

In small bowl, stir together soy sauce, white wine, sugar, cornstarch, white pepper, pepper flakes, mustard, and water until sugar dissolves; set aside.

Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add beans and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp-tender and skins are shriveled and blackened in spots, 5 to 8 minutes (reduce heat to medium-high if beans darken too quickly. Transfer beans to large plate.

Reduce heat to medium-high and add pork to now empty skillet. Cook breaking pork into small pieces, until no pink remains, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and ginger; cook stirring constantly, until fragrant, 15 to 20 seconds. Stir sauce to recombine and return beans to pan with sauce. Toss and cook until sauce is thickened, 5 to 10 seconds. Remove pan from heat and stir in scallions and sesame oil. Serve immediately.

My rating:

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Stuffed Cabbage Roll

Tonight's dinner was a throw-back to food that we grew up on; stuffed cabbage. I had a green cabbage in my CSA basket and found a recipe using ground turkey as the meat component for the filling. I also made a simple tomato sauce to put in the bottom of the casserole as well as covering the stuffed cabbage rolls while baking in the oven.

I felt that this was an updated recipe from the bland rolls we grew up with. I would definitely make these again.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Adapted from a Mario Batali recipe

1 large head green cabbage
1 package ground turkey meat
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs, plus 1/2 cup, toasted
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
10 sage leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs
2 cups basic tomato sauce, recipe follows

Basic Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, chopped in 1/4-inch dice
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 of a medium carrot, finely shredded
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved
Salt to taste

Start with the tomato sauce:

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt and serve. This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375 degrees and bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large stockpot with 2 tablespoons of salt.

Remove whole leaves from the cabbage to yield 14 large leaves and plunge into the boiling water. Cook until soft enough to fold, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water and lay out on clean kitchen towels to continue cooling.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, place the ground turkey, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, 1/2 cup parsley, red onion, sage, salt and pepper and eggs and mix well with hands. Lay out the cabbage leaves on a cutting board and place a medium-sized handful of the turkey mixture in the lower center of each leaf. Fold the lateral sides inward and roll from the base to form a closed pocket out of each stuffed leaf. In an ovenproof casserole large enough to hold all the cabbage rolls, place half the tomato sauce. Lay the cabbage rolls atop the sauce. Spoon the remaining sauce over and bake 1 hour. Remove and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2-cup bread crumbs, and 1/4 cup parsley.

Serve immediately.

My rating:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hache Parmentier

Tonight's dinner was inspired by leftover roast beef from Christmas day. I made a Standing Rib Roast au Jus for dinner on Christmas day and found this recipe to use the leftovers. I cut up two cups of roast beef and made some gravy from the au jus. I made extra mashed potatoes last night for dinner to use for tonight as well. All I had to do tonight was saute some fresh vegetables, make a gravy from the au jus, and reheat the mashed potatoes. This dish was like a shepherd's pie with the sauteed vegetables, leftover cubed roast beef and gravy all warmed up together. This mixture was topped with the warmed up mashed potatoes spiced up with a couple of tablespoons of freshly grated horseradish. The entire casserole was topped with fresh breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan cheese and dabbed with butter before going into a hot oven to cook through.

This turned out to be a great use of leftover roast beef and one I will use again.

Hache Parmentier
Adapted from Wolfgang Puck

2 cups leftover roast beef or pot roast
1/2 cup beef gravy
2 cups chopped cooked vegetables
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups mashed potatoes, heated through
2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish
1/2 - 3/4 cups fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

Preheat the oven with 350 degrees F.

Combine the meat, gravy, and vegetables in a large cast iron skillet and cook over medium heat just until everything is heated through. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the horseradish to the heated potatoes. Spread the mashed potatoes over the meat mixture, smoothing with a spatula and spreading to the edges of the skillet.

Sprinkle the top with the bread crumbs and the Parmesan. Dot the top with butter. Bake for 45 minutes on the top shelf of the oven.

Our rating:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Panko-Crusted Salmon

I love to try new recipes for salmon and I really love it when I find one that I know we will make again and again. Tonight's recipe is definitely one we will make again. The ingredients are pretty much staples I have in the house all the time so other than getting the salmon fillets, I know I can pretty much make this any time. Each salmon fillet is coated with Dijon mustard and seasoned with salt and pepper. The panko breadcrumbs were combined with freshly minced parsley, fresh lemon zest, salt, pepper and olive oil to coat all the crumbs before being pressed on the Dijon coated fillets.

The coated fillets were sauteed in a hot skillet in a little olive oil for a few minutes and then the entire pan went in a hot oven for 5 minutes. The skillet came out of the oven and was covered with aluminum foil and allowed to rest for another 5 minutes. The skin came out really crispy cooking it this way if you are a fish skin fan, but if not it is very easy to eat the salmon and leave the skin. The coating of Dijon on the fish with the contrast of the crispy breadcrumbs was superb! I served this with mashed potatoes and steamed haricots verts (french green beans) and I loved the combination.

Panko-Crusted Salmon
Adapted from Annie's Eats, originally from How Easy is That? by Ina Garten

1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 (6-8 ounce) salmon fillets, skin on
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Lemon wedges for serving

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the panko, parsley, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and toss with a fork until the crumbs are evenly coated; set aside.

Place the salmon fillets skin side down on a work surface. Generously brush the top of each fillet with the mustard and then season with salt and pepper. Press the panko mixture thickly on top of the mustard on each fillet to help the panko adhere.

Heat the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium sized oven-safe skillet. When the oil is hot, add the salmon fillets, skin side down, and sear for 3-4 minutes without turning to brown the skin. (If you don’t want to eat the skin, this step also helps the skin stick to the pan so the fillets can be easily removed without the skin later on.)

Transfer the pan to the preheated oven for 5-7 minutes, until the salmon is almost cooked through and the panko is golden brown. Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let rest 5-10 minutes. Serve warm with fresh lemon wedges.

Our rating:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Rosemary Potato Frittata

After the excess eating of the Christmas holidays, I was glad to see a Meatless Monday. I really did not want to go to the grocery store today, so I decided to make a meal using what I had on hand and what I received in our CSA basket Saturday morning. I had eggs, garlic, fresh rosemary, and Parmesan cheese on hand and I had received onions, potatoes and mustard greens along with other items in our basket and so I made a Rosemary Potato Frittata with sauteed Mustard greens.

It was all good but we both felt like we knew we were eating what's good for us compared to the excessive diet of late. I know greens are good for us and loaded with antioxidants and so we ate them. I'm hoping we will like them more and more every time we make them.

Rosemary Potato Frittata
Adapted from Rachel Ray

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 pound baby potatoes
1/2 small onion
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
6 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup milk, half and half, or cream
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated

Heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in medium heat-proof skillet over medium-low heat with the clove of crushed garlic. Let the garlic infuse the oil while you thinly slice the potatoes and onion; then remove the garlic. Add the potatoes and onions to the skillet and season with rosemary and salt and pepper, to taste. Raise the heat a little and cook for 6 to 7 minutes. Turn the potato/onion mixture over and cook for 5 minutes more. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Add the egg mixture to the skillet and move them around and under the potatoes to settle them. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until golden on top, about 10 to 12 minutes. Scatter the cheese on top, turn the oven off and let sit for another couple of minutes. Remove from the oven and serve.

Yield: 2 servings

Our rating:

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pork Chops with Carolina Rub

I thought these pork chops sounded yummy when I first read the recipe and so I decided to make them tonight. I started with 2 boneless center-cut pork loin chops which I rubbed on both sides with a flavorful spice rub. The recipe called for grilling these, but since it was a cold, gray day in the Dallas area, I decided to just cook them under the broiler and I must say it worked out just fine.

I served the pork chops with stove-top barbecue beans and homemade coleslaw.

Pork Chops with Carolina Rub (2 servings)
Adapted from Cooking Light Dinner Tonight Cookbook

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut pork loin chops
cooking spray
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce

Prepare grill or preheat broiler.

Combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl. Rub pork with spice mixture; let pork stand 10 minutes.

Place pork on grill rack or broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Grill or broil 4 minutes. Turn pork, and grill or broil 2 minutes. Brush each chop with 1 tablespoon sauce, and grill or broil 2 minutes or until desired degree of doneness.

Our rating:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Eggplant Parmagiana

It's always a great treat when your adult children return home for the holidays and of course I always ask if there is anything they are craving for dinner. Stephanie and David requested Eggplant Parmagiana which is always a wonderful choice in my eyes.

I found a beautifully fresh eggplant and sliced it into 1/4 inch thick rounds. I salted and peppered each round and dredged them in flour before dipping them in beaten eggs and finally into Italian style breadcrumbs. The crumb coated slices got a quick saute in a skillet with a mixture of olive oil and canola oil until golden brown on each side. I removed the slices and set them aside while browning the next batch, continuing until all the eggplant slices were browned. The eggplant slices went on an oil-coated baking sheet, they were topped with warm Marinara sauce, sprinkled with mozzarella cheese and popped in a 375 degree oven for a few minutes to heat everything through and melt the cheese. I love eggplant parmagiana and so I really enjoy when the kids request it.

I served this with a side of spaghetti and steamed green beans.

Eggplant Parmagiana

1 large eggplant, sliced into rounds 1/4-inch thick
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs
Italian style breadcrumbs
Marinara Sauce, either homemade or jarred (I like to use Newman's Own Marinara)
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Grated Parmesan for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Gently heat marinara sauce in small saucepan.

Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Beat eggs with 1 tablespoon of water. Dip flour coated eggplant slices in eggs and then coat with breadcrumbs.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive and 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute eggplant slices in batches for about 2 minutes per side, until golden brown on each side. Remove browned slices to a greased baking sheet. Top each eggplant slice with some marinara sauce and top with a sprinkling of mozzarella. Place baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for 5-7 minutes until everything is heated through and cheese is melted. Once plated, add a little freshly grated Parmesan.

My rating:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Scallops with Chipotle-Orange Sauce

We have not had scallops in a while and we haven't enjoyed the smoky flavor of chipotle in a very long time, so when I came across this recipe, I knew I had to make it. The scallops were pan seared after getting a sprinkling of paprika and salt and then they were topped with a sauce made by deglazing the skillet with freshly squeezed orange juice and chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. The sauce was finished with butter to enrich it and the scallops and sauce were served over white rice sauteed with sliced yellow peppers. The smoky flavor and heat of the sauce were perfect over the mellow rice. I also served steamed broccoli as our vegetable.

Scallops with Chipotle-Orange Sauce (Serves 2)
Adapted from Cooking Light Dinner Tonight Cookbook

1 tablespoon butter, divided
Cooking Spray
3/4 lb. large sea scallops
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
2 tablespoons chopped green onions

Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Sprinkle scallops with paprika and half of the salt; add to pan, and cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove from pan; keep warm.

Add freshly squeezed orange juice and chile to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Bring liquid to a boil; cook until reduced by half (about 1 minute). Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter and remaining salt to pan; stir with a whisk. Serve sauce over scallops; garnish with green onions.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 4 1/2 ounces scallops, about 1 tablespoon sauce, and 1 tablespoon green onions).

Our rating:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Huevos Rancheros with Queso Fresco

Since Huevos Rancheros is one of Gerry's favorite breakfasts, I decided to try this one egg dish for dinner. He is not a fan of breakfast for dinner but this had enough heartiness and spice to qualify as a dinner. This was a recipe I found in one of my Cooking Light Cookbooks and was really very easy to make since it used a few canned items freshened up with a few fresh ingredients. Overall the spice level in this dish was perfect, especially over my homemade tortillas that I had stashed in the freezer.

We also had an orange, pineapple, and coconut Ambrosio for dessert which was made from canned pineapple chunks, fresh orange segments, and a little powdered sugar, all sprinkled with a little flaked sweetened coconut. This was the perfect ending to the spicier entree.

Huevos Ranchers with Queso Fresco
Adapted from Cooking Light Dinner Tonight Cookbook

1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chilies, undrained
1 (10-ounce) can red enchilada sauce
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons water
1 (16-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon butter
4 large eggs
4 (8-inch) flour tortillas
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled queso fresco cheese

Combine tomatoes and enchilada sauce in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes or until slightly thick. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro and juice. Set aside.

Place water and beans in a microwave-safe bowl, and partially mash with a fork. Cover and microwave at high 2 minutes or until hot.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; melt the butter. Add eggs and cook 1 minute on each side or until desired degree of doneness.

Warm tortillas according to package directions. Spread about 1/3 cup beans over each tortilla; top each tortilla with 1 egg. Spoon 1/2 cup sauce around each egg; sprinkle each serving with 1/4 cup cheese.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 topped tortilla).

Our rating:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Snickerdoodle Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting

My daughter, Elizabeth had found this particular recipe on Pinterest and I decided to make it for her. If you like Snickerdoodle cookies and Buttercream frosting, then this is the recipe for you. Both the cake and the frosting have a good dash of cinnamon which is what ties it to the Snickerdoodle cookie. This recipe is not the one to try if you are watching fats and counting calories since it has a total of 6 1/2 sticks of butter in it. It is definitely a special occasion treat.

Snickerdoodle Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting
Slightly Adapted from Foodie with

For the Cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
1 3/4 cups fine or superfine sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups whole milk, warmed to room tempreature

For the Buttercream:
4 1/2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
8-9 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup of half and half, plus more if needed

Whole cinnamon sticks for garnish

To bake the cake:

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Butter and flour two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy and pale in color. Beat the eggs in one at a time, fully incorporating each egg and scraping down the bowl between each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

Add about 1/3 of the milk, beat to incorporate, then 1/3 of the flour, again beating to incorporate. Repeat this process, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until all of the milk and flour are added and mixed in evenly.

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake, rotating midway through, for about 35 minutes or until the cake tests done.

Let the cakes cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes before turning out onto the racks to finish cooling.

To make the frosting:

Beat together the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon until fluffy and pale in color. Add 6 cups of the confectioner's sugar and the vanilla extract and beat, starting on low and moving up to high, until it is fully incorporated.

Scrape down the bowl and add the half and half. Beat to incorporate again.

Add another 2 cups of the confectioner's sugar and beat, starting on low and moving up to high, until fully incorporated. Check the consistency of the buttercream. If it needs to be thicker, add the remaining confectioner's sugar. If it is too thick, add more half and half a teaspoon at a time, beating after each addition, until it reaches the consistency you like.

To assemble and frost the cake:

Level out your cooled cakes and cut each into two even layers.

Place one layer on a cake plate then add a layer of buttercream, spreading to the edges and evening out as you go. Repeat with the remaining layers. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining buttercream. If desired, garnish the top of the cake with whole cinnamon sticks.

Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before slicing. Store leftovers tightly covered in the refrigerator.

Our rating:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Oven Roasted Root Vegetables

When Gerry goes out of town, I am always faced with the dilemma of what to cook for myself if I decide to cook at all. Tonight I decided to oven roast a bunch of vegetables that were in my CSA basket. I had some turnips, a carnival squash, carrots, broccoli and I added red potatoes. I cut all the vegetables to approximately the same size and spread everything out on a baking sheet. A good drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper was all that was needed before popping the baking sheet in a 400 degree oven. I tossed all the vegetables after 30 minutes of roasting and allowed everything to roast for another 30 minutes. The only vegetable that was not a root vegetable was the broccoli which roasted just fine along with
everything else. I also bought a piece of chili glazed tofu from Whole Foods and dinner was ready in a snap.

The only time consuming part of making dinner was in cutting all the vegetables. Once everything was in the oven, my work was done; the rest was up to the oven.

I love roasting vegetables since it brings out the natural flavors of each individual vegetable.

Oven Roasted Root Vegetables with Broccoli (4-5 servings)

5-6 small red potatoes, scrubbed and halved depending on size
1 large turnip, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
4-5 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 head of broccoli, separated into florets, stems peeled and cut in 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Spread all the cut up vegetables on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss all the vegetables to be sure they are well coated with the olive oil (I like to use my hands). Place baking sheet in a preheated 400 degree oven. Roast for 30 minutes and toss vegetables spreading back out to a single layer. Roast for another 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender and caramelized. Finish with another sprinkling of salt and pepper if needed.

My rating:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fizzy Chicken with Rice and Lemon Vinaigrette

Tuesday is the day my youngest daughter and her friend come over for dinner. They sit at the counter and grade papers and chat while I prepare dinner. I enjoy their company and it's always fun to cook for more people than just me and my husband. A couple of weeks ago, Melissa requested Fizzy Chicken and I was happy to oblige.

The chicken breasts are dredged in flour and sauteed in vegetable oil and then club soda is added and allowed to cook down to make a syrupy sauce for the chicken. The chicken gets served over rice that has grated Parmesan, heavy cream and butter added. The chicken and rice finally get a drizzle of a lemon vinaigrette which is what really puts this dish over the top.

I served this with ribbons of carrots and zucchini that I sliced on my mandoline and cooked simply in a skillet in a little bit of butter, covered for 3 minutes and sprinkled with parsley and salt.

Fizzy Chicken with Rice and Lemon Vinaigrette (4 servings)
Adapted from Cuisine at Home for Two

For the Vinaigrette
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the Chicken and Rice
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, about 5 oz. each
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup dry converted white rice (I used Uncle Ben's)
4 tablespoons all purpose white flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup club soda
3 teaspoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons heavy cream
3 teaspoons unsalted butter

Make the vinaigrette:
Combine lemon juice, chives, honey, and Dijon in a bowl. Drizzle in the 4 tablespoons oil, whisking constantly until mixture is thoroughly combined. Set aside.

Trim chicken breasts of fat, then season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, cook rice according to package directions.

Dredge chicken in flour; saute in 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Flip chicken; saute 1 minute more.

Deglaze pan with club soda, reduce heat to medium and add 3 teaspoons butter and pepper flakes. Cover and simmer until liquid is syrupy, about 5 minutes; turning chicken to coat. Keep chicken warm over low heat.

Combine cooked rice with Parmesan, cream and another 3 teaspoons butter. Serve chicken breasts with lemon vinaigrette and Parmesan rice.

Our rating:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mashed Potatoes and Mushroom Gravy

I decided to make a very home-style kind of dinner tonight for Meatless Monday. I cooked up some potatoes with garlic and mashed them when done with some buttermilk, a little bit of butter and seasoned with salt and pepper. I topped the mound of mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy. I cooked up some chopped onions along with a lot of sliced mushrooms in olive oil until cooked through and browned. Once they were browned, I added some butter and stirred in flour to make a roux. I added a splash of soy sauce for color and flavor and then stirred in vegetable broth. I stirred and simmered this mixture just as you would make a traditional gravy.

Mushroom Gravy
Adapted from

12 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced thin
1/2 med. onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 cups vegetable broth

In a large skillet heat the tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat, add the onions, mushrooms and poultry seasoning and saute for about 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Once the mushrooms reduce their liquid and turn a golden brown, add the butter and allow to melt before stirring in the flour. Continue to stir for 1 minute and then add the soy sauce and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and stir and simmer until desired thickness.

My rating:

Homemade Applesauce

What to do when someone in the house needs to be on a low-fiber diet for a few days? Make applesauce of course. Ever since I made apple butter a couple of months ago, I have been meaning to make applesauce which is really just a simpler process. I had plenty of apples on hand from our CSA basket and the other ingredients needed were water, sugar and cinnamon. This was extremely easy and quick to make and it was wonderful to eat it while it was still warm, not mention all that cinnamon scenting the house wasn't bad either.

Homemade Applesauce (about 8 1/2-cup servings)
Adapted from

8 apples (I used half Pink Lady and half Granny Smith)
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of apples)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Peel, core and chop apples. Place apple pieces in a pot with water, sugar and cinnamon. Stir to combine and place over medium heat. When mixture comes to a boil, cover, reduce heat to simmer and allow to cook for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once apples are very soft, remove from heat and mash with a potato masher or blend with an immersion blender to desired consistency.

My rating:

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cheese Straws

I needed an appetizer to bring to the holiday party I went to last night and I decided to make Cheese Straws which has been on my list of recipes to try. This recipe is in the first Barefoot Contessa cookbook I got as a gift which was Barefoot in Paris. It is the very first food recipe in the book (the first three are cocktail recipes) and I was waiting for just the right occasion. I just knew these would be good since they start with puff pastry and are topped with a combination of Parmesan and Gruyere cheese. They lived up to my every expectation and they were easy to make.

Cheese Straws (22-24 straws)
Adapted from Barefoot in Paris

2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry, defrosted overnight in the refrigerator
1 large egg
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out each sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured board until it's 10 x 12 inches. Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the surface of the pastry. Sprinkle each sheet evenly with 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, 1/2 teaspoon of the thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and some pepper. With the rolling pin, lightly press the flavorings into the puff pastry. Cut each sheet crosswise with a floured knife or pizza wheel into 11 or 12 strips. Twist each strip and lay on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly browned and puffed. Turn each straw and bake for another 2 minutes. Don't overbake or the cheese will burn. Cool and serve at room temperature.

These will firm up a little more as they cool, so don't be concerned if they seem a little limp coming out of the oven.

My rating:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pasta Fagioli

I love the holiday season with all the different gatherings where you get to know people on a different level. I love my workout routine which I go to faithfully every day and because of this I am more able to eat the foods I want. Tonight I went to a holiday gathering of fellow Jazzercise women and it was fun to get to know people on a different level. I had a great time and the food was wonderful. There were lots of appetizers and lots of desserts.

I decided a soup sounded perfect for tonight, but Gerry actually ended up making it since I ran out of time. We had Pasta Fagioli and it was wonderful. How can you go wrong with a Pasta and Bean Soup on a cold night in December? It was perfect to have a bowlful of hearty soup before heading out to a party where food was everywhere.

Pasta Fagioli
Adapted from

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 large bay leaf
1 tablespoon basil
1 tablespoon parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) dry Ditalini pasta or other small pasta
Grated Parmigiano or Romano for serving

In a deep pot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat.

Blend the beans with one can full of water in blender until almost smooth.

Add blended beans to pan, then add the can of tomato sauce, celery, carrots, chicken broth, basil, bay leaf, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Add 1 cup water and bring to slow boil. Let simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Add pasta and cook uncovered until pasta is al dente, according to pasta directions.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with grated cheese if desired.

Our rating:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chicken Cacciatore

Chicken sounded just right for dinner tonight and I decided to try a light version of Chicken Cacciatore which was very good. It used chicken thighs without the skin, some red bell pepper, onions, garlic and mushrooms. The sauce was created with crushed tomatoes, and chicken broth, seasoned with oregano and basil. It was served over cooked fusilli and I garnished with a little freshly grated Pecorino Romano Cheese.

Chicken Cacciatore (6 servings)
Adapted from

6 chicken thighs, skin and fat removed
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
3/4 cup fat free chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 cup fresh chopped basil leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups cooked (12 ounces) high fiber fusilli pasta

Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large heavy saute pan, heat the olive oil in the pan over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and saute just until brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the browned chicken pieces and set aside. Add the peppers, onion and garlic to the pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 3-4 minutes, then add mushrooms and cook another 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper Add the tomatoes, broth, and oregano.

Cover the pan and bring the sauce to a simmer. Nestle the chicken pieces back in the sauce. Continue simmering over low heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Add the chopped basil 5 minutes before sauce is done. Serve over high fiber pasta.

Our rating:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Glazed Pork Tenderloin

I read an article recently in my Cook's Magazine 2011 Holiday Entertaining about achieving a great glazed pork tenderloin and decided tonight was the perfect night to try it. I had defrosted a pork tenderloin that was sitting in the freezer and gave this recipe a go. Since it was a really cold day (temps pretty much stayed in the 30's today) this meal sounded wonderful.

I made Home Fries with red potatoes and carrots and turnips as our side dishes.

Maple-Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Adapted from Cook's Magazine 2011 Holiday Entertaining

3 ounces pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons light or mild molasses
1 tablespoon bourbon
generous pinch ground cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 pork tenderloin (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Stir 1/4 cup maple syrup, molasses, bourbon, cinnamon, cloves, and cayenne together in 1-cup liquid measuring cup; set aside. Whisk cornstarch, sugar, salt and pepper in small bowl until combined. Transfer cornstarch mixture to rimmed baking sheet. Pat tenderloin dry with paper towels, then roll in cornstarch mixture until evenly coated on all sides. Thoroughly pat off excess cornstarch mixture. (Be sure to pat off the cornstarch mixture thoroughly, as any excess will leave gummy spots on the tenderloin).

Heat oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just beginning to smoke. Reduce heat to medium and place tenderloin in skillet. Cook until well browned on all sides, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer tenderloin to wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet.

Pour off excess fat from skillet and return to medium heat. Add syrup mixture to skillet, scraping up browned bits with wooden spoon, and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 2 minutes. Transfer 1 tablespoon glaze to a small bowl and set aside. Using remaining glaze, brush tenderloin with approximately 1 tablespoon glaze. Roast until thickest part of tenderloin registers 130 degrees, 12 to 15 minutes. Brush each tenderloin with another tablespoon glaze and continue to roast until thickest part of tenderloin registers 135 to 140 degrees, 2 to 4 minutes longer. Remove tenderloin from oven and brush with remaining glaze; let rest, uncovered for 10 minutes.

While tenderloin rests, stir remaining maple syrup and mustard into reserved tablespoon glaze. Brush tenderloin with 1 tablespoon mustard glaze. Transfer meat to cutting board and slice into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. Serve, passing extra mustard glaze at table.

Our rating:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Black Bean and Roasted Tomato Burritos

For this week's Meatless Monday dinner, I decided on burritos. I started my menu choice by knowing I wanted to make black beans and roasted tomatoes. I felt this was not quite substantial enough for dinner, so I decided to cook up some rice to add to the mixture and then I thought I could wrap it all in a burrito. Of course it needed some kind of sauce to hold it all together, so I thought a Queso Blanco would do the job perfectly.

These were good, but I think they could have used a little more bite and flavor. I think the addition of a spicy tomato salsa would be great.

Black Bean and Roasted Tomato Burritos (2 generous or 3 smaller servings)
Adapted from Annie's Eats

2 burrito sized flour tortillas
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2-2 cups cooked black beans (1 can, rinsed and drained)
Juice and zest of one lemon
2-3 scallions, chopped

Queso Blanco Sauce (recipe following)
1/2 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
6 oz. white American cheese, shredded
2 oz. Monterey jack cheese, shredded
1/4-1/2 cup milk
1/2 tomato, seeded and finely diced
1 tablespoon cilantro, minced

To roast the tomatoes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and sugar on a rimmed baking sheet and toss well to coat. Bake for about 40 minutes, tossing once or twice during cooking. Remove from the oven and let cool.

In a large bowl, combine the beans, lemon zest and juice, scallions, and roasted tomatoes. Toss well to combine.

Prepare the Queso Blanco

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and jalapeño to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add both of the shredded cheeses and ¼ cup of the milk. Whisk or stir until completely melted. Mix in the tomato and cilantro, and add additional milk gradually as necessary to achieve desired consistency.

Add half of the queso to the rice and bean mixture and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Spoon half of the filling on to a burrito-sized flour tortilla and roll up.

My rating:

Tea Time Tassies

The girls and I decided to bake Christmas cookies on Sunday sine Stephanie was here. We always bake dozens and dozens of cookies and bring trays of cookies to co-workers. We drastically cut down on the kinds of cookies this year. We only made six different kinds of cookies this year versus the 10 or 12 we usually do. We have had Emma (5 years old) join us the last couple of years and this year she really spent a lot of time helping us. Emma was really dedicated to helping us as much as she could and it was really fun to have her help and enthusiasm.

This was also the first year that I didn't end up in the kitchen by myself finishing the last couple of batches of cookies. It was a wonderful time spent with my girls.

We decided on the following cookies for our baking day:
Peanut Butter Blossoms
Chocolate Crinkles
Tea Time Tassies
White Chocolate Peppermint Bark
Sugar Cookies
Frosted Molasses Cookies

We have agreed to set aside another day closer to Christmas to decorate gingerbread houses which I think Emma will also enjoy.

The recipe I am sharing with you today is one that I grew up with and we make it every year at Christmas. These are really miniature tarts with the crust containing butter, cream cheese and flour. The filling is like a pecan pie filling so another name could be Miniature Pecan Pies.

Tea Time Tassies (makes 24)

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour, unsifted

1 egg
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pinch salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Have ready 2 miniature muffin tins with cups that measure about 2 inches across and 7/8-inch deep.

For crust, beat butter with cream cheese until smooth. Add flour and mix until a dough forms. Chill for at least 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Divide into 24 balls. With your fingers (or a special press made by Pampered Chef), press each ball into an ungreased muffin cup, taking care to make a smooth, even layer over the bottom and up the sides.

For the filling, whisk the egg in a medium bowl. Add sugar, butter, vanilla and salt and mix well.

Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon chopped pecans in to each crust. Add filling so it comes almost to the top of the cups, making sure it doesn't spill over. Sprinkle any remaining pecans over the top.

Bake 15 minutes in the preheated 350 degree oven. Reduce oven to 250 degrees and continue to bake until crust is light golden brown at the edges, 10 minutes. Cool.

When muffin tin is cool enough to handle, loosen cups from the sides of the tin and carefully transfer to a wire rack. Cool to room temperature.

My rating:

Eggs Benedict

We celebrated Jason's birthday on Saturday even though his actual birthday is not until the 13th of this month. We chose to do it this weekend since Stephanie and David had come in town again for a wedding on Friday. Even though it was a little early, I think it worked out great before the craziness of the holidays.

As is our custom, Jason sent me his menu for the day ahead of time so I could prepare for it and I was really happy to find a family favorite for breakfast - Eggs Benedict. That is how we started our day.

He decided he wanted Ethiopian food for lunch and we always go to a fabulous restaurant in Addison which is what we did. His dinner choice was individual Beef Wellingtons with oven roasted red potatoes, carrots, onions and asparagus. He typically alternates between two desserts: Chocolate Caramel Truffle Torte or fried Ice Cream. He chose Fried Ice Cream this year with some hot chocolate sauce and caramel sauce.

I think his choices were excellent! We had a lot of fun with the board games he chose to play throughout the day and of course we ate lots of yummy food.

Eggs Benedict (6 servings)

Hollandaise Sauce (recipe follows)
3 English Muffins
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon butter
6 thin slices Canadian Bacon
6 eggs, poached

Hollandaise Sauce
3 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup firm stick butter

Fill a large skillet with a couple inches of water (enough to be able to cover the eggs when poaching) and warm over gentle heat while preparing the Hollandaise.

For the Hollandaise - in the top of a double boiler, stir egg yolks and lemon juice vigorously. Add 1/4 cup of the butter. Heat over water that is just barely simmering, stirring constantly with a wire whisk, until butter is melted.

Add remaining butter and continue stirring vigorously until butter is melted and sauce is thickened. (Be sure butter melts slowly so eggs have time to cook and thicken sauce without curdling.) Once sauce is done, remove double boiler from heat, but leave sauce over the warm water to keep warm.

Split English muffins and toast. Spread each muffin half with butter, keep warm on a baking sheet in a 250 degree oven.

Melt 1 teaspoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. Cook bacon in butter until golden brown on both sides. Place one slice of Canadian over each toasted, buttered English muffin half.

Prepare poached eggs by heating the water in the skillet to a boil and then reduce the heat so the water just simmers. Add a splash of vinegar. Break each egg into a custard cup or saucer. Carefully slip egg into water. Cook about 4 minutes or until whites and yolks are done to your preference (I like whites firm, but yolks still runny). Remove with a slotted spoon and pat dry gently with paper towels.

Place a poached egg on each muffin half over the bacon and spoon the warm sauce over the eggs.

Our rating:

Friday, December 2, 2011

Chicken Parmagiana

This is a classic dish that I have made so often over the years, I don't even use a recipe. I do a shortcut version using jarred Marinara sauce. I know I have really been back to the basics for the past couple of months, but sometimes convenience just wins out. I do like Newman's Own Marinara Sauce and that is what I used tonight. I always serve Chicken Parmagiana with a side of spaghetti topped with marinara.

There are some meals that are so simple you don't even need a recipe and this is one of them.

Chicken Parmagiana

2 chicken breast halves
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
2 eggs
2 tablespoons water
1 cup Italian Breadcrumbs
Olive Oil
Canola Oil
8 oz. spaghetti
1 jar Marinara Sauce
1/2-1 cup of shredded Mozzarella cheese
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the spaghetti. Heat the jar of marinara sauce over low heat in a small saucepan.

Split the chicken breast halves in half and pound between plastic wrap until 1/4" thick. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Place flour in container for dredging. Beat eggs in another container with the 2 tablespoons of water. Place breadcrumbs in third container. Dredge chicken pieces in flour on both sides, shaking off excess. Dip in beaten eggs and finally coat with breadcrumbs.

Saute breaded chicken pieces in a mixture of canola and olive oils, using just enough to coat the bottom of a nonstick skillet. I usually brown two pieces at a time since they are pretty big. Saute for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove to a baking sheet while browning the next batch.

Meanwhile cook spaghetti, following package directions.

Once all the chicken pieces are golden brown and on the baking sheet, spread each piece with a little of the warm Marinara sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella. Place baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 4-5 minutes until cheese is melted and just starting to brown. Remove from oven and garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Toss cooked spaghetti with warm marinara sauce.

Serve one piece of Chicken Parmagiana with a side of the spaghetti and garnish both with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Our rating:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Broiled Tilapia with Thai Coconut Curry Sauce

I knew when I came across this recipe that I needed to make it since Gerry and I both love fish and it has one of my other favorite things to eat - Thai coconut curry sauce. Have I mentioned before how much I love Thai curries? The depth of flavor in this recipe was wonderful with just a little bit of heat. I know for sure I will make this dish again and again.

I cut the amount of fish in the recipe for two servings, but I went ahead and make the full sauce recipe rather than try to cut it down. The next time I make this, I will buy 4 fish fillets so we can have the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Broiled Tilapia with Thai Coconut Curry Sauce (serves 6)
Adapted from, originally adapted from Cooking Light

1 teaspoon sesame oil, divided
1 tablespoon minced, peeled fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 cup scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons red curry paste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
4 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce
1 14-ounce can light coconut milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
6 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
cooking spray

Preheat broiler.

Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add pepper and scallions; cook 1 minute. Stir in curry powder, curry paste, and cumin; cook 1 minute. Add soy sauce, sugar, Asian fish sauce, and coconut milk, bring to a simmer. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro or basil if using.

Brush fish with remaining 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place fish on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Broil 7 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve fish with sauce, rice, and lime wedges.

Our rating: